Vacating a Property Amicably is a Two-Way Street for California Landlords and Tenants

At Hedtke Law Group, we understand the delicate balance in the relationship between landlords and tenants in California. We represent both sides of this equation because we believe everyone has the right to have a safe place to live while people also have the right to earn a living on the properties they own.

California law provides a roadmap for much of the landlord-tenant relationship, but there are also moral responsibilities that should be fulfilled to make vacating a property less stressful and expensive for everyone involved. We want to delve further into the steps that can make vacating a property easier and more harmonious.

Repairing Damage Beyond Normal Wear and Tear

One crucial aspect of vacating a property is understanding the difference between damage that falls under “normal wear and tear” and damage that exceeds this baseline. Landlords in California are not allowed to deduct from a tenant’s security deposit for damage that is considered normal wear and tear. This includes minor nicks and bumps on the walls, minor scrapes on the floor, and the natural aging of property elements.

However, when damage goes beyond this standard, the costs can quickly pile up for both landlords and tenants. To avoid disputes, tenants should consider hiring professionals or, if they are handy, fixing any excess damage themselves. If you’re unsure about the extent of the damage, communicate with your landlord to discuss the best way forward.

You’ll be responsible for the repair costs either way, so ensuring the repairs are satisfactory is essential. Some landlords prefer to make the repairs themselves and then work with the tenant to determine the associated costs with itemized receipts.

Removing All Property

When vacating a property, tenants need to remove all of their belongings unless there is a prior agreement with the landlord. In some unique cases, landlords may be willing to forgive certain damages in exchange for valuable property that enhances the rental, such as a washer and dryer or other updated appliances. However, abandoning property without communication is not safe or smart for anyone involved.

Under Section 1951.3 of the California Civil Code, if property is left behind, the landlord must notify the tenant at the last known address that they have 18 days to claim any abandoned property. If it is not claimed within this period, the landlord may choose to dispose of, keep, or sell the items, depending on their value. Items valued at less than $700 can be retained or sold by the landlord, while items valued above $700 must be sold at auction, with the proceeds going to the state and/or county. Landlords may keep proceeds from the auction to cover storage, maintenance, and advertising costs related to the property in question.

Returning the Full Security Deposit

California law requires landlords to return a tenant’s security deposit within 21 days after the lease’s end. If landlords intend to claim any deductions from the security deposit, such as cleaning or repairing damages beyond normal wear and tear, they must notify the tenant. If  these costs exceed $125, an itemized receipt detailing the expenses must be attached.

If a tenant disagrees with the landlord’s decision to withhold or deduct from the security deposit, they have the option to take legal action in small claims court to resolve the dispute.

Hedtke Law Group Supports California Landlords and Tenants

At Hedtke Law Group, we are committed to supporting both landlords and tenants in California. Whether you are the landlord or the tenant, we are here to support your rights and save you money when things go wrong. Contact our team today and get the support you deserve.